Torsten Curdt’s weblog

Social Network Fatigue

Another typical day 2.0 of a person 2.0 that wonders if there maybe has come the time for a version 3.0. While on facebook there are another ten invites to the next “super super wall” waiting, on myspace that hot chick wants me to visit her site (probably 2.0 as well but I didn’t check) ….but for some reason she is only friends with Tom. On Orkut another brazilian girl left a message on my message board. Too bad I am one of the few people on that platform that does not speak portuguese or spanish. On (the german) studivz another friend does the equivalent of poking me and I still wondering WTF “gruscheln” is supposed to mean. In my email inbox (which is so 1.0) I’ve already got another 2 invites to the next big social network that tries to make millions by gathering people and have them enter their information – again.

I am so getting tired of this. And people around me already are too. Some even left those networks (or just don’t use them anymore) because social network fatigue is currently spreading like a infectious disease. And since I am also only really using LinkedIn and Xing I might opt out of the others as well.

One graph to rule them all

While I am a big believer in the potential of social networks I also think that the current implementations are flawed. While Open Social claims to overcome the silos I can’t truly see the vision of the one social graph behind it – which for me is the holy grail of social networking. There are some people arguing that a single graph is not desirable and cannot reflect the dynamic nature of human relationships. While I do think those critiques have a point, I also think that the conclusion they draw are wrong. The graph does need to become more dynamic and yes – the data should be yours.

Your data, your control

The data should belong to the user and this is clearly expressed by initiatives like FOAF. They put you in charge of your data – other people may consume it though. Google recently announced to crawl the FOAF data for example. As taking ownership still requires too much geek skills these days, of course one could imagine a scheme similar to OpenID providers to give you the freedom and control of your data in a non/less geeky way.
The problem I see with FOAF (or XFN) is also that there is no privacy control. Information wise you do a striptease and put it up on the net as a video. The user needs to have fine grained control of what data gets exposed to what service. So what has been a static FOAF file needs to become dynamic and provide different views to the different services consuming the data. I don’t want all my contacts on Facebook to show up in LinkedIn or vice versa.

So if we could provide a way to provide different views on the users data to the different social networks, the different networks could happily co-exist and complement each other. Relationships could become less binary (friend or not friend) and could be more easily maintained.

Technically this is quite quickly spec’ed out – what’s needed is adoption. Maybe something the data portability initiative could help with?

  • TheGuru
    My experiences and sentiments exactly. You should see the document I keep all usernames and passwords in just not to forget the access I have to all those networks!

    Suddenly my simple and original html personal website looks like where I want to be.
  • Carl
    One thing that I wonder about is what happens when you want to cancel your account. A couple of months ago, I started cancelling all my accounts out of boredom, frustration and because I felt "over it". Linkedin.com actually provided the account cancel ability. Facebook however, only let me suspend my account - after that I logged in again and my account was "reactivated" and my details were still there, obviously not deleted.
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